OTTAWA -- The COVID-19 pandemic is keeping people apart, which can take a toll on mental health.

As we practice physical distancing to protect each other from the spread of the virus, many senior citizens are left isolated and unable to see their loved ones.

A Friendly Voice is a telephone program, staffed by volunteers, that offers residents of Ontario 55 and older a way to connect with others.

The Rural Ottawa South Support Services says a three-year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation gives them the opportunity to offer a local line through the program.

A senior who wishes to access A Friendly Voice would simply call 613-692-9992. The service is available seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to midnight.

Outside of Ottawa, the toll-free number is 1-855-892-9992.

A Friendly Voice offers more than just someone to talk to. Volunteers can also connect callers with information on community programs that can help during this isolating time. It is, however, not a counselling service, distress or crisis line. Any calls of that nature will result in immediate contact or referral to the appropriate responders, agency or service.

The Mental Health Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week at 613-722-6914.

The Distress Centre of Ottawa is also available 24 hours a day/7 days a week at 613-238-3311.